The Benefit of Drawing for Young Children

One of the parenting lessons I have received is the importance of drawing and painting for young children – they are amongst the most important basic skills they will learn. It’s not just the visual exploration and adventure that aids their inquisitive, sponge-like minds, but something many first-time parents will encounter for the first time – fine motor skills.

IMG_4909The ablity to hold and master that crayon or pencil is key in mastering the fine skills of writing and drawing. So much so that it can hold back their classroom progress; the slower their writing, the longer they take to complete tasks and assignments. Not to mention that being the last to finish is never fun.

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Whether boys or girls, it’s exercise that will help children develop the core muscles that enable them to accomplish these skills. Monkey bars – similar to the play going on below right, is a brilliant activity from as soon as you’re able. I used to hold my boy’s legs from about two years while he held the bars. He was a regular gibbon on the bars by the time he was five.

However it’s not something you can give up – if in a situation where they are not exposed to regular exercise that works their core and their finger and hand strength, it will be quickly lost. As they grow older, sports like rugby, cricket and baseball can help greatly. Make the effort, however tired you feel, it’s so very worth it, speaking to their development and self-esteem, while keeping them away from the TV and various devices we have attached to ourselves.

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Question Time – Yeeha !

Question Time: 4-year-olds

I relate entirely to this, as will all other parents who’ve been through, or are experiencing this phase. My boy is as curious as they come, and during this phase would fit in maybe ten ‘why’s per simple request. He’s still asking, which I believe is a good thing for his future, although thankfully thinking more before asking ‘the next one’. One moment he wants to be a scientist, the next a journalist, a pilot and (thankfully!) a marine biologist.

Encouraging curiosity can only be a good thing; while you sometimes may feel like banging your head against the steering wheel, take a deep breath and be damn thankful that your child isn’t sitting there mute and disinterested in all around him. Don’t brush off those questions, however frustrating they get, after all it’s part of your job as a parent and you did sign up for this. But as there’s no point in re-inventing the wheel,  I’ve borrowed the below snippet from a website that I find very accurate in terms of developmental milestones (link below).

“Conversations can sometimes feel like interrogations with curious, chatty 4-year-olds. A particular favorite now is the “wh” words: Where are we going, Mom? When will we get there? Who are we going to see? Why isn’t Dad coming with us?

As part of her new mental abilities, she’s getting all the connections put together. She wants to see the order of things. Another reason for the nonstop questions is that your child’s vocabulary is exploding, and she wants to practice using words to probe her world. Intellectually, she’s beginning to understand that there are reasons for things — and she wants to know what they are.

Try not to brush off questions, relentless though they may be. Keep your answers short and sweet. She doesn’t really want a long-winded scientific explanation of why the sky is blue. When you get tired of answering, ask questions back instead: “What do you think?” If you notice a persistent theme to questions that show your child is really curious about something — say, clouds — visit the library together and check out a few books that fuel the interest. Who knows where her questions may take you? At the very least, you’ll learn how to tell a cirrus from a cumulus.

‘Why is this a tomato, Auntie Alex?’ (!)

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Your life now

Perseverance is an important trait to model for your child. Studies show that people who are persistent — rather than those who have high IQs — tend to achieve greater success in life. Let your child see you going the extra mile, whether it’s fixing something around the house or sticking with the same project such as a big book or a painting night after night.

http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-4-1-4-year-old-curiosity_10329825.bc?responsys_count=0&scid=mbtw_preschooler_post4y_3m_2w&pe=MlV3blFWanwyMDE2MDUxNg..

Single Parenting Holidays: Joburg for Christmas again ?

 

So Christmas has passed and December’s approaching yet again. A little quicker than last year, which was already a little quicker than the 12 months before and so-on and so-on.

That’s what I was thinking last year in about August. Such is the calendar of a single parent battling to see his children; I was thinking this would leave me four months in which to arrange what has become the annual Cape Town–Johannesburg flight to see ageing grandparents and maintain connections with cousin, aunt and friends.

Without being morbid, the thing with the sharp end of ageing is that you don’t know which trip to see the children’s gran or grandad will be their last, so going elsewhere, like a holiday destination, doesn’t happen. Just in case. Like my Dad. He hardly got to know his grandchildren before he moved on. My son has meanwhile learnt about ageing from these visits, and is far braver than I remember being about ‘old people’ at that age.

IMG_4473Drawing with Gran.

There hadn’t been timeous agreement regarding the previous three Christmas holiday suggestions with the my boy’s mother, and again I had no option but to book flights the week before the big day; which for me and my 6 year-old pretty much cost half the price of a ticket to London.

Which, heading off on a tangent, leads me to think how our holiday expectations evolve . If not my son’s friends’ going to the proverbial family holiday house at Kenton-on-Sea or ‘Plett’, favoured holiday spots here in South Africa, my now-global school friends are taking their kids to Europe and the US for skiing holidays.

Cousin T has joined uncle pat as a firm favourite for Fynn. Sassy joined in.  IMG_1057    IMG_1213_2

In comparison, spending my share of the annual big Christmas vacation with my boy and our family down the road from Westpark cemetary in Johannesburg was ok. That’s another  reality of the single-parenting world; if you’re close to your family and not necessarily flush, horizons often don’t extend much beyond remaining families.

We enjoy the relative peace. Well I do, my boy obviously lives for the moment, and if he’s surrounded by love and his holiday animals – with a swimming pool as a bonus – he’s happy.

He loves being with his aunt and cousin. So does his four year-old sister, but unfortunately she only gets to see them on one day a year (for reasons that won’t be addressed here).

I appreciate the quiet of Jo’burg, driving avenues lined with the trees of my childhood (the Joburg-Pretoria conurbation represents the world’s largest urban ‘forest’). It reminds me too, earlier comments or morbidity aside, that the children spending quality time with their fast-ageing and generally immobile granny is also pretty key, to nurture their sense of paternal family.

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And anyway, peak-season airports are hell.

 

 

Being Dad

I’m a separated Dad. Once a story belonging to others in newspapers and on TV, it is now my own tale too. I’m not particularly interesting, but as millions of single mothers and fathers around the world will relate to the experience, they may appreciate the telling of the tale as it happens.

Nothing has ever felt more important than this. Not the armed and red-eyed Somali shifta I once came across in a dusty village called Jalalaxi, nor the rabid militia pursuing the queues of bundle-toting Tutsi refugees leaving Rwanda as we drove in over the border in 94. Not even South Africa’s famed voting queues of the same year. Because, as dramatic as it may sound, ‘this’ struggle for my children’s fair access to me  is the biggest story of my lfe. Wrapped up in it is the future of two delightful beings, their happiness and emotional security.

‘Why, Daddy, why?’, said my 5 year-old on the way to creche two years ago. He was actually testing how many times he could get away with the ‘why’ word, but as we pulled onto the motorway – inbetween our machine-gun giggles at his ploy – it got me thinking. Wondering how my father would have answered that question.

This is a Daddy Story. For me, my now seven year-old boy and his four year-old sister, my greatest gifts from a person with whom I once shared love. A story of contrasts, emotional dead-wood versus big hugs and love measured by legal percentages – as told from this father’s perspective. These precious creatures are products of yet another broken home, insecurities and fragile egos. The tales of single mothers out there with there own challenges are well-told; absent fathers, alcoholics and abusers. On the other hand, there are women aplenty, mothers, who intentionally deprive their children of the often positive role-models in their fathers. Women will tell you in shocked voices of other women they know who do that. But men don’t speak about it.

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 Some parenting authors and child psychologists will say it’s the children’s family history – the way their parents themselves were raised – that will to a large extent shape the way they are. There are many examples to support this, but more importantly it’s the way their parents behave in the here and now – and in the future – that will be the deciding factor in how equipped they are to deal with the world. And how they love.

This writing, with the others that accompany it, is an introduction to my love story.

Truth & Lies in Parenting

By Charlene Smith

(author of Nelson Mandela’s official biography)

Becoming a parent alerts you to all sorts of lies, most of all the ones our parents or culture taught us. Being a good parent is about trying to implement new truths.

Soon after my daughter was born I wrote about the Motherhood Myth. I’m not sure what I expected when first I saw her, perhaps a string quartet? Instead there was this tiny little red creature with the longest tongue I’ve ever seen on a person licking the air, exploring her chin and nose. I was intrigued and confused, also very tired, but certainly not in love.

That came three days later when I confessed to a visitor that although all the other babies were “lovely,” Leila was “incredibly beautiful.” When I look at pics now I see that was not true, but maternal love blinds.

However, not every woman has maternal feelings. I respect those women and men who choose not to have children, I believe that every child deserves to be born to someone or a pair who will love them and give them the best possible life they can afford (and here time is worth more than money).

When Leila was about a year old I remember sitting in the living room chatting to my friend Glenn, while his son Lee played with Leila. As the children became rowdier we spoke louder and louder, we made no attempt to curb our children, we adjusted. Afterward I wrote another piece about the Motherhood Myth and this was about the importance of fathers.

Glenn’s wife had no interest in their son, she left Glenn not long after the boy was born, taking the infant with her, but then she’d often go away for the weekend and abandon him in the commune she shared with others. At some stage someone would call Glenn and he’d fetch Lee. Glenn later married someone else, had two more children and was an exemplary father who sadly died young.

The fathers of both my children were A-grade Dreadful Fathers, they never paid maintenance, lied about why they were unreliable about access, forgot birthdays and Christmases’ but although it was clear to my children that I didn’t like their fathers, I encouraged them to have relationships with their dads. My issues were not theirs and even though both fathers actively tried to sabotage me to my children, my view was that I’d brought up these children, given them their values, they knew what was right and wrong, and hopefully had acute BS detectors.

However, what I’ve also learned is that it is hard for children to have a good BS detector with an absent dad – they always want to be loved by him and they will do much to try and create a relationship with him.

In the tricky world of divorce, especially the acrimony that flares at the end of a relationship and is whipped into an active brush fire by lawyers, one can become so consumed by one’s own ego, and, “no, I definitely did not do that” or “I never would have said that” – that we can become imbecilic nitpickers and whiners.

As parents, adulthood is not an option, the minute that sperm collides with the egg and all the Bingo signs light up, we have to grow up.

And growing up means showing up, means never bad-mouthing your ex to your kids, demands that you encourage a relationship with the spouse you once adored and now hate. Being a grown up means that you love your children even when they drive you so crazy you could weep (and sometimes do).

Adult parents are a little like good cops, we protect, we serve, we don’t expect thanks, we do it because it’s the right thing to do and the benefits are fabulous. #

Dating For Dads 2

She was my first internet date, and I was a bit nervous.

Firstly because I knew that this was my first journey down the dark side of online dating, that murky avenue where the discarded remnants of failed relationships lurk in search of company and maybe some form of social acceptance.

To set the scene, it was a popular, well-frequented suburban watering—hole-cum-restaurant roughly halfway between us. The sort of place where your husband-brother-or-father would watch rugby. But on entering the crowded and chatty building from the always full, pine-fringed car-park that night I felt as if all eyes were on me, that everyone knew why I was there.

At least that was my thinking then. Because who does this sort of dodgy online dating stuff anyway?

That was about two years ago, and not long before a boyhood school-friend and long-time New York city resident announced to the table over dinner at a Cape Town city restaurant that it’s the done thing in his part of the world. ‘Hey man, it’s the boss!’

Essentially, it was the validation that I needed, and translated the concept into a ‘good enough’ reality for me.

I had tried to call her number a few times before we met, but with no luck. So I went ahead and agreed to meet nevertheless.

Turned out that she didn’t she didn’t really live where she said she did on her ‘profile’. If you’re from these parts (Cape Town), you will appreciate that broadly speaking, while physically not too far down the road, Muizenberg is on another level, far removed from Strandfontein. In the way that socie-economics is the great separator, it just isn’t the same.

She also posted pictures of herself as a teenager. It could’ve been someone else altogether.

I could’ve walked out, accused her of ‘social fraud’, of wasting my time invested in the communications we’d had over the past couple weeks, of misleading me. But I felt bad; she had travelled far, and being all alone she would’ve been totally out of place in what for her was a clearly foreign environment.

That’s internet dating for you, and I suppose the reason why I finally relented and opted to try the Tinder app. What I imagined to be something trashy, without even having tried it, turned out to be an effective application, populated by people like me, and with no charge.

It pulls limited personal information from your Facebook page – like your profile pictures – and even highlights mutual connections you may have. So the odds are good that the person behind the profile is genuine. If the person is suddenly 30kg heavier, well therein lies the baggage gathered over a lifetime – at least youve had the time  to develop the skills of diplomacy and kindness to deal with it – and  a real person with real stuff.

And there’s a bonus that I suppose was every bit intended. Because it’s an app, you interact with it when it suits you, no shotgun-scatter emails and weirdos flooding your inbox. Welcome to the new dating generation. It beats sitting at the bar and bugging your buddies.

Camping with Small Children (And an Unexpected Link to The Elderly)

My memories of camping are of being forced to sleep in a tent on family holidays when my mates were staying at beach hotels in Mhlanga Rocks *, that year-round vacation destination extension of Durban. That wasn’t cool.

That me and my siblings didn’t enjoy going camping with an irritable parent should in itself say somethings to parents who dictate rather than guide their children’s paths through life. Taking into account their likes and dislikes, making holidays fun etcetera, which is exactly what my Dad didn’t do (my mom didn’t have much of a say).

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Judging by the fact that I wasn’t even allowed to mow the lawn before I was 15, by which stage I obviously really didn’t want to, I doubt he would’ve allowed me to get involved in erecting the tent as a pre-schooler. Many parents will realize pre-schoolers love getting involved; for those who have somehow (inexplicably) missed their little ones’ seemingly obsessive desire to help, I suggest that you change your ways now.

By denying them the opportunity for helping out, you won’t just kill off their enthusiasm to be involved, you will ensure that when they’re older and you really need their help, as in building a wall, taking out the rubbish or cleaning the pool, they won’t want to help. And that will set up its own battlefield, so you have been warned, the way that scenario plays out is in your hands. The writer’s unfortunate expression in the below picture has nothing to do with the topic – me and friend Mark were contemplating our unprepareedness, the lack of chairs and a table among them. Such are the dangers of imprompto rustic getaways. The boys obviously didnt mind.

 

Camping is an easy way to involve the whole family (considering that mom wants to go). There’s nothing fussy about little kids, and likewise with setting up tents, crawling into a sleeping-bag with sandy feet, eating around a campfire and washing up. Beyond the excitement (for your child) and the positive practicalities, such as learning how to put up a tent and make and respect a fire, consider the positive effects of nature on the human psyche.

Of course, while fathers camping with the kids is almost a default scenario, the alternative reality is that not all parents enjoy it. Yes, a number of moms do, but my experience is that the older they get, the less chance they’re interested in communing with crawly things and carrying a toilet-roll in a backpack.

I went on to enjoy camping in my older years, as a 20-something by necessity, South Africa’s Drakensberg mountains and Swaziland, Malalotja Nature Reserve, coming to mind. And now it’s as if the word ‘camp’ is pitched in my subconscious, occasionally releasing scented aspects of the pleasant parts of the experience; the inside of the tent, the campfire, children’s giggles and even the early-morning scent of exotic pines.

After that it was over 20 years before I returned to the land of tent-pegs and fly-sheets at a beautiful campsite called Beaverlac (https://www.beaverlac.co.za/) in South Africa’s Cederberg mountains . Two dads with their three year-old sons, we forgot chairs and all sorts of stuff that would’ve made the experience more comfortable – for us. Nevertheless, I looked at it as a reminder, and anyway, the rock-pools were great.

John Walmsley and Fynn discussing the storm of last night.

John Walmsley and Fynn discussing the storm of last night.

And then the parenting split came, and it was three years before we got to camp again. The odious holiday parenting plan determined the we had just one night in which to camp. I’m his father, and I had made him a promise.

The one night ended up being on a lawn at a visiting school- friend’s father’s house, overlooking False Bay outside Simonstown, Cape Town. Jo is her name, and her Dad was John; a warm, slightly stiff English-born soul entering his 80s and battling cancer with the stiff-upper-lip countenance that becomes that generation of his countrymen. Yet when Jo suggested to him that we would like to camp on their patch of lawn, John (and his always welcoming wife Sue), despite the discomfort of almost daily ilness-related tests, probes and pain, insisted that we do.

And for the next two years of his life, even when Jo was back home in Colorado, the invitation for us to visit was there. John was in that typically English fashion a bit awkward with my son, but clealry fond of him, and I still wonder if the little man’s presence was a balm of sorts. I had noticed it with my Dad, who still remembered his grandson’s name while wondering around the garden in his wellington boots, irrespective of how far the Alzheimers had progressed. I think he had enjoyed their short time together.

My son set about mowing the lawn after we arrived for that anticipated night, after deciding exactly where we would pitch the tent. While we were sleeping, the relatively unthinkable and utterly unseasonal then happened. The ominous, dark sky rattled and rolled and eventually hurled thudding, bulleting drops of rain down on our tent. My son was asleep.

John Walmsley and Fynn discussing the storm of last night. Good view from the Jo's folk's garden, Murdoch Valley, outside Simonstown. IMG_5866 IMG_5868

Bullets of water thudded onto the thirsty grass patch on which we were pitched, and while the overflowing gutter downpipe churned like the Zambezi river’s rapid #22, I was pleased  we had put the fly-sheet on. From inside our acrylic dome not two metres from the visitors’ room downstairs, I devised half-awake escape plans that, in the event of the tent-roof giving in, involved slinging my sleeping 20kg treasure over my back only to find the door locked.

Then I woke up. We were dry. The sky above the wet, morning wet-scented grass was a clear blue, and our view over False Bay just down below was as impressive as it had been the day before, and all was good. It had been a night to remember, and I think I just may have rediscvered my appetite for tent-pegs and that tell-tale sound of the zip.

* pr. ‘umshlanga’ by most white South Africans of European descent. The combined ‘hl’ can be challenging for the less linguistcally-inclined.

Introducing The Kids to ‘Birding’

One of the first recognizable sounds to wing its way from my son’s chattery mouth of delightful sounds was the call of a hadeda ibis. Nappy-clad, he would grip the edge of his cot, tense his little body and let fly with a ‘Ha-ha-hahaaa’ (read as though about to sneeze, maintaining a nasal tone throughout).

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He was at that age when I felt, as with many new parents, like recording every utterance. There’s a happy magic in not just the innocent sound itself, but in the little mind’s grappling intent to form the words made by adults and older siblings.

But age plays its games with our minds, and when I ask him today if he remembers that he did a pitch-perfect imitation of the famously irritating sunrise call, he shrugs it aside; almost seven, he’s a bit self-conscious in that age-appropriate fashion, and longer gives that call the ‘stick’ he did in his toddler years.

 

If you listen to the attached podcast recorded at an urban wetland (paragraph 7), you will notice this call, and that he doesn’t oblige when I ask him to repeat the sound for us. That’s ok, he was 1) shy and 2) busy, playing in the undergrowth while I conducted our interview. And a possible 3) could’ve been that I’d asked him to be quiet while we recorded. So he was actually being obliging in conducting a quiet battle amongst leaf and twig.

On the subject of battles, by this point you would’ve forgotten that I’m a single father. My beautiful, bubbly and mischievous three year-old was meanwhile making shapes in the dirt with a new friend, a little further down the path. That’s part of being a single parent; if the split is acrimonious, as in a parent possibly keeping a child from the other, you are especially conscious of sharing your limited time, sometimes only a morning, in an equitable fashion with them both. The professionals remind you at this point that it’s important to focus on quality time, not quantity, that they will remember such occasions, hopefully more than the weekly procession of new toys some parents prefer to dish out.

Most important was that both children were happy, involved, ‘in the moment’.

We were recording at a place here in Cape Town called Intaka island. About as un-tropical as it gets, it’s an environmental off-set for a development company in the middle of a new shopping and retail precinct called Century City. https://soundcloud.com/angus-africanstorybook/nature-calls-pilot-hadeda-ibis

Intaka is a treat from far left field. A large wetland, with heronries, bird hides and wooden walkways, tripod-bound photographers looking for kingfishers, quiet and water-birds enjoy this place as much as the school-groups.

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It is as much an environmental education centre as a retreat for the urban weary and nature enthusiast. We took the learning angle one step further and joined a local environmental group, ringing birds as part of a bird count.

White-eyes and Cape weavers were the most common little creatures caught in the net on that particular morning. My little lad was an enthusiastic helper; untangling his feathered friends, putting them into little cloth bags and carrying them to be weighed and measured at the bird-hide that had been turned into a makeshift lab. He even got to release one, while his sister enjoyed the spring flowers.

 

Responsibility, interest, education outdoors, interest and most of all, fun. All the boxes ticked, a great morning. Maybe soon, when she sleeps over, I have a feeling my little girl will want to release a bird too.

 

 

What’s For Lunch Dad ?

“I just ate some half-chewed food my son spit onto his plate. Parenting has reduced me to some kind of disgusting bird-man…”. It’s a quote I came across on a parent user-group, and while I,  like millions of others, have often finished the children’s food, eating the chewed remains of another is a frightening thought, let alone dodgy role-modelling. But what I’m really getting, as you will see at the link pasted below, is food and our children.

The way in which we feed them is crucial to their development, their health and energy in particular, they’re all wrapped up in what WE feed them,

Since becoming a parent, and having children with an ex-partner who had claimed to have anorexia as a teenager, I watched household life a little more closely and began to ask questions.  Obsessions with a diet of bread, potatoes and pasta, in this age of unprecedented nutritional exposes and discoveries, concerned me. I have often asked a few tough ‘why’ questions of myself, like am I myself obsessed? If it’s about a parent’s determination to intentionally feed a child junk, in keeping with that parent’s own questionable nutritional psyche, then yes I am. Because it is my duty to protect my children, whether from a bus or future anxiety.

For instance; Why do we assume children automatically want processed sweet stuff as soon as they’re off mom’s breast?

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In today’s world of unparallelled access to information, why do we treat their little bodies as garbage dumps, for red vienna sausages, white bread and a variety of processed foods most of us wouldn’t eat ourselves?

Why do we assume they want bread and pasta all day? And what’s with coating strawberries, full of its own natural sugars, with refined white sugar?

Any of the above are ok, but not as part of a regular diet. Pasta is fun, but it’s an empty carbohydrate. To those who say, ‘oh the kids will burn it off’, well, the increasing number of children spending a corresponding amount of time in front of TV or on mobile devices says there’s a lot less ‘burn-off’ going on these days. So while pasta once a week is ok, I’d suggest mix it up a little with real energy food, complex carbohydrates (the good ones) like brown (jasmine is great) rice and sweet potatoes, and see what roles pumpkin and butternut play.

Research is a little time-consuming, but as it’s our children we’re talking about, it’s important; otherwise it’s a bit like putting pirate parts in your new car instead of the real deal, cheaper and easier. Would you?

I tried brooching the subject with the mother of my children, but given that she had told me when we met that she’d had anorexic issues as a teenager, I suppose I should’ve known that I was on a hiding to nothing, and that our children’s nutritional future was looking a little bleak.

Looking at the above foods, there will always be the inevitable chorus of ‘look at me, I’m alive, it didn’t do me any harm’, as many of my friends will say. And many will be proved right, because our bodies are different, and respond as the individual entities they are. But I’d suggest we think a bit before answering.

Children today eat worse than ‘we’ did, generally speaking, purely because of the amount of sweets shoved in their face on a dialy basis, whether on TV or in the  grid-locked check-out queue lined with crap (food retailers need them hooked on sugar so that the children keep buying their stuff when adults). And given that it takes weeks or months to get an appointment with the average family doctor – and even longer for a specialist – and the rampant increase in prevalence of ‘modern’ diseases such as cancer, diabetes and alzheimers, which pretty much burst into doctors’ rooms in tandem with modern-day food-production and the associated preservatives and chemicals , I wonder how healthy we really are.

If your child is happy eating nutritious food like this, why would a parent force him or her to change?

If your child is happy eating nutritious food like this, why would a parent force him or her to change?

So I’d suggest the ‘I’m alive’ retort could probably do with a rethink. And for children today, with sugar followng them around like a halo and parents fretting about some modern ‘syndrome’ called Attention Deficit Disorder – perhaps it’s a creation of our doing.

What we do know is that the pharmaceutical industry has boomed as a result of the diseases, conditions and illnesses spawned by what we consume (the pharmacare industry is worth more money than many countries’ gross domestic product).

Why? Our bodies were never designed to absorb the colourants, preservatives and even traces of pesticides found in the food we have become used to consuming in our everyday food and drink. Daily packets of crackers and biscuits in a child’s lunch next to the white bread and cake could be described as nutritional abuse by an educated parent. The key word in that sentence is ‘everyday’; read the labels of the stuff you feed your children (and yourself), and if any of the terms don’t sound like food I’d suggest further investigation if you have the time. Whatever you do, don’t assume that because a major retailer has a certain product on its shelf that it is fit for regular consumption – a few in South Africa (and obviously elsewhere) have been known to embrace the grey area between light and dark in the name of profit.

So in this spirit of truth and enthusiasm, blended with my personal ideal of eating anything in moderation, I have been on a part-time journey of responsible culinary consumption, most importantly for my children. Returing to my vehicular metaphor, if we take srious care of our cars, why can’t we do the same for our children?

Having fun with feeding little ones is a given, because before they develop senses like taste and independent thought, the associated entertainment around a meal – like flying the food into the mouth (aicraft carrier) and having spear-fights with lightly-steamed, crunchy broccoli stalks (mush isn’t appreciated) – is often as time-consuming as the meal itself. So making it silly and entrtaining is a no-brainer. My friend got his girls (and my son) hooked on sugar-snap peas by referring them as elephant droppings or suchlike.

While thinking about what we consume, which includes the manner in which our fish is caught and the treatment of the pig or cow before it was slaughtered, if you eat such – we should still enjoy our food.

I haven’t changed the structure of the last sentence because it serves as a reminder, however uncomfortable, that we need to think, to be conscious about our actions – as we should be about our treatment of other people. And just for the record, I love peanut-butter sandwiches

For this reason I hope South African (and global citizens) think before echoing what their best friend heard in a supermarket or at soccer practise about UCT Professor Emeritus Tim Noakes, author of banting recipe books, The Real Meal Revolution and Raising Superheroes. I don’t follow the diet, but eating strategically, according to our needs more than our wants, with a good deal of latitude, makes sense to me. I’ve interviewd Prof Noakes about other related subjects, and think I have a little insight as to what makes him tick (beyond book sales). Crucially, he  is supported in his thinking by medical and nutritional professionals around the world. http://realmealrevolution.com/the-books

the-book-book-raising-superheroesNatural growth spurts aside, why would any reasonably educated person want to raise their child to be overweight, with all the possible attendant health and likely societal issues ? Noakes tackles the subject head-on.

My son a few months ago decided we could have fun producing this clip. It’s s typical lunch we make for school. At the top of the page are images of typical lunches supplied by his other parent (who just btw happens to be a teacher with a PhD).

These are challenges for parents, and should pose only one question; is it about you or the kids?